On Thursday, July 29, 2021, Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over the simultaneous release of the long-awaited Marvel film both in theaters and on the premiere level of Disney+. According to the suit, Johansson was promised an exclusive in-theater release, and that the actual dual release negatively affected Johansson's final salary from the film.
John Berlinski is the attorney representing Johansson and is sure that this will be the first suit of many that talent brings against studios as Hollywood tries to readjust to a post-quarantine world. The issue of what would happen when people could go back to theaters was brought up at the beginning of the COVID shutdowns when talent foresaw profitability being an issue with simultaneous releases.
The studios proceeded, as releasing movies directly to streaming helped keep them in business during the long and hard quarantines. Disney has disputed the lawsuit filed by Johansson, revealing that she has received her salary already, which they revealed to be $20 million.
Johansson's primary issue with the simultaneous release was that in her contract, she is also set to receive bonuses based on box office numbers. This seems to be the meat of the lawsuit since after a good opening weekend, numbers for Black Widow - which received rave reviews from critics - quickly dropped off.
Marvel seems to be on the side of their Natasha, with Dave Galluzzi, Marvel's Chief Counsel, confirming reports that in 2019 Johansson and her team were told that there would be an exclusive in-theater release of the long-awaited solo film. There is even an email stating that the actress would be consulted if there were any changes in that plan due to the bonus contingencies.
Disney has stated that there was no breach of contract and has condemned the suit as pandering by Johansson. They claim that she is still set to receive specific bonuses. Since she received her salary, there is nothing to the case, calling it a sad display considering where the state of the world currently is.
Hollywood as a whole is focused on the outcome, waiting to see if this will stem the flow or open the floodgates of expected similar suits.
As more news comes out, we will keep you updated.
Sources: https://www.businessinsider.com/scarlett-johansson-disney-lawsuit-black-widow-could-change-hollywood-2021-8; https://www.wsj.com/articles/scarlett-johansson-sues-disney-over-black-widow-streaming-release-11627579278; https://mashable.com/article/black-widow-review-roundup